Clay and poop

by - November 11, 2013

A note flashed up on the screen saying I had a request for a custom order on Etsy. I sighed and determined that I probably could do the order but really didn't want to do that many ornaments on top of an ornament class. I walked out to the garage and rolled out a small slab of white clay and cut two stars. The requested word just barely fit with my Stymie Light 36pt vintage letterpress. As I began to smooth out the edges, the small space around my chair became crowded with the three Puckett men wanting to know what I was up to, the youngest of which began crying to be held. "Wash your hands. Pick me up." I left the edges of the two stars rough and went inside to email the customer back, letting her know that I wasn't able to fill her request and looked up a couple potters on Etsy who might be able to give her what she wanted. 

That was last week. This evening I made an expansive bowl with deep teal swirls and then after serving up chicken nuggets with apple sauce, returned to the wheel to throw another. This time as I neared the finishing touches, the drizzled underglaze and the shape of the bowl wasn't just so. With a wet sponge, I smoothed out the rim, then as I went deeper into the bowl, large blue clods sloughed off and stuck to the surface. Trying to smooth it back into the body just thinned out the piece and soon it collapsed. Two more times I tried. I should have tossed the clay which was tired and running out of elasticity. Finally I rolled out a large slab, pressed in a grid texture and began trying to get a pleasing shape for a cheese board. I trimmed and trimmed the edges until there was nothing left but kidney bean shaped piece of clay scrap. I peeled it off the work surface, tossed it back in the bag and stormed inside to wash my hands - the kids having already fallen asleep without goodnight kisses. 

I show you shiny bowls and happy boys. I speak of freedom to do hobbies. I see my neuroses - perfectionism and compusive tweaking in one area sabatoging a sacred evening ritual in another. I close my eyes to fall asleep and can't shake the image of clay spinning, always slightly wobbling. I remember as a five year old having a dream of a spool of string spinning out of control with a long trail that kept growing as I kept snipping it with a pair of scissors. 

This afternoon after the boys came out to watch me work and ask me to open up a couple pieces of Halloween candy, the studio was filled with the scent of lollipops, burned hair and cat feces. The hair was my own and had been entangled in the wet clay and zapped by the heat gun which I'd used to try to keep the first bowl from collapsing. It's a lovely piece with a small base and daring openness for the thinness of the walls. 

The cat poop was from our cat, who like myself is prone to obsession. Ever since she slaughtered two mice in one night, she has begged to be out there in the evenings. When I'm in production mode, I can tell she's been keeping watch because there will be a few strands of cat hair on the rim of whatever piece was left on the wheel, where she has stepped and brushed against the wet clay while taking a sip from the water bucket. Last night she must have slipped out when I was rummaging through the Jeep for a plastic flip frog one of the boys dropped,  but she had apparently not timed her meal with her overnight camp out - hence the poop. She has lofty goals but is bound by the same mechanisms we all are. Eventually we all just crap out. 

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  1. I identify with you very much. There's a fine line between concentrating on the positive and hiding imperfections. You're a good potter, an enjoyable blogger and a great mom. Love your candor.



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